Michael Thompson's Storm Chase Diary
22nd May 2007 - Hill City, Kansas, Tornadic
photos (except video
stills ) clickable for larger size
Abandoned farmhouse on the South Dakota Prairie
First cell for the day just S/SE of Hoxie,
After a days chasing in Montana and South Dakota I
found myself in McMurdo in South
Dakota. Western Kansas was the target for the 22nd. The New
Zealand storm chaser team whom I had dinner with were pushing onto
Valentine, Nebraska for their overnight stay. I should have done the
same thing. None the less the stay in McMurdo resulted in an nice late
night storm. Target area for the 22nd was western Kansas, a broad area.
By mid afternoon is was finally into Kansas. At this stage I was under
overcast skies, but as I got further south it cleared to broken
cumulus. Knowing that the dryline was a good thing to find I headed SW
ending up in Hoxie. I could clearly see the dryline to my west so I
decided that Hoxie was a good place to sit and wait. A WiFi signal from
the local 'gas' station / store as an added bonus.
I was on Hoxie on my own for about 30 minutes before several storm
chasers converged. Roger Hill with his tour group and another tour,
with taggers in tow. I introduced myself to the faces I recognised, but
I guess an Australian chaser in the USA is not a novelty anymore.
Actually to be blunt I was dissapointed with the lack of interest and
fellowship - over the three weeks I talked to more Italian, New Zealand and UK chasers than natives.
Cumulus started to boil to the south and this was taking my interest
more. After about 20 minutes at the gas station Roger Hill rounds up
his troops with a loud " We have to head east ", ", a minute later the
carpark was all mine again as not only Roger's van left, but everyone
else too. I had made myself one promise before going to the USA and
that was not to tag any US chasers and use my own judgments,
Australian experience and observations.
Not long afterwards the small cell became visible on radar. It was
located southwards of Hoxie, but was moving NE, so I headed
The storm soon became a line of storms, I located myself just east of
a line of supercells sitting on the dryline, but always focusing on the
south most cell.
frogged my way south and west on several roads, with the
most cell always my target. Finally near Hill City a tornadic
supercell developed. The structure was the stuff up until now I had
only seen in photos - a mothership updraft and a clearly defined
mesocyclone. Although the tornado the supercell
finally dropped was not that large, it was none the less a very
photogenic storm and one I will never forget.
short video of the supercells are below If you can't see the video click this
the show was far from
over. Like all the other chasers after the tornado had lifted I debated
which way to head. I decided to head northwards than east again hoping
to pull ahead of the storm. On the eastern leg I encountered heavy
rain, small hail and strong wind. I must confess to being just a little
worried at one stage. I finally got ahead of the storm on road 183 near
Stockton or Glade. It was dark by now and the lightning due west was
almost constant. I filled up at a 'gas' station and also had a crash
course in Kansas health department regulations - you cannot wear bare
feet inside a store.
I headed southwards towards Hays. Again, but this time in the dark I
was overtaken by the storm. I just hoped that there was no tornado. I
finally cleared the storm several miles from Hays, but another
storm was boiling to the west of Hays. I pulled
up on the 183 / I70 junction and shot some lovely lightning photos as
the tornado sirens screamed in the town.
to extend my day as far as possible I headed even further east
and stayed the night at Salina, however the storms weakened
and did not make Salina.